Life as a CCS Bard Student

The CCS Bard graduate program provides students with a rich academic environment including countless opportunities for learning outside of the classroom.  As I know first-hand as a recent graduate, and now a current staff member, student life can be challenging to communicate from a distance. I have compiled the following information with specific examples of the kinds of activities our students engage in whilst in the program, In order to give potential students a better idea of what a day, a week, or a year in the life of a CCS student is like.

If you are interested in attending CCS Bard, I encourage you to contact me or another member of our staff. Whenever possible, we encourage prospective students to schedule a tour of our facilities in order to get a sense of the day-to-day experience of our students. While you’re here, you may want to visit our current exhibitions, take a tour of Bard’s campus, or sit in on a class. If you would like, we would also be happy to send you a catalogue including more detailed information about the program.

With best wishes,

Sarah Higgins, ‘CCS 13
Graduate Program Coordinator, CCS Bard 

Student Life at CCS Bard

Students at CCS Bard are expected to devote themselves to a rigorous curriculum of academic study and research, but the nature of the program is such that “curriculum” expands to accommodate a variety of interdisciplinary activities. A week in the life of a CCS student might include implementing curatorial projects both on- and off-site; attending Visitor Talks by guest curators, scholars, and artists; organizing meetings regarding collaborative projects; co-editing a publication with students from a partner institution; and participating in collaborations with regional organizations and those based in New York City, less than two hours away. Students also spend time in the classroom and in one-on-one meetings with a dedicated faculty of artists, curators, and scholars.

Among the opportunities available to students are mounting exhibitions on the student-curated Bulletin Board as well as writing and editorial work for the Red Hook Journal and other publications. Exhibitions in the CCS Bard Galleries and Hessel Museum, all of which are free and open to the public, are curated by faculty, students, or guests and serve as a constant case study for observation, critique, and response in and outside of class.

The two-year program begins with a series of core classes focused on exhibition histories, theory and criticism of contemporary art, and curatorial and research methodologies. Additionally, much attention is paid to the practical, hands-on concerns of exhibition design and implementation. Students have access to the expansive Marieluise Hessel Collection of contemporary art, as well as the CCS Bard Archives and Special Collections housed in our Library. Student-curated projects making use of these and other resources will take place throughout one’s time with the program, culminating in the curated component of a graduate thesis.

Elective courses take up a variety of specialized theoretical and historical contexts, concentrating on research, contemporary art, and the curatorial. Some courses are cross-listed with Bard College undergraduate programs such as Film & Electronic Arts and Human Rights, offering an expanded roster of faculty members as well as the insights of students from other disciplines.

In the summer between their first and second years, each student conducts direct, project-based work and receives personal mentoring from a curator, scholar, critic, or other arts professional. These relationships are facilitated and developed in cooperation with CCS Bard advisers and give students the opportunity to explore individual interests and establish themselves as working professionals.

In the second year of study, the coursework shifts to focus on the research and development, writing and implementation, of a two-tier thesis project. The written thesis is a rigorously researched academic paper occupying a relationship, whether direct or oblique, to the curated component of the graduate thesis. The curated component of the thesis project often takes the form of an exhibition, but projects may also engage in expanding the parameters of curatorial practice to account for discursive, hybrid, and publication-based projects.

In addition, second year students continue to take elective courses as well as participate in Second Year Practicum, a course which often partners with alternative organizations and institutions for extended projects. 

During the evenings and weekends, students enjoy the beauty and charm of the Hudson River Valley. CCS Bard students have free access to Bard College’s Stevenson Library, the newly expanded Stevenson Athletic Center, the Bard Farm Stand, and other campus amenities including a regular college-wide schedule of film screenings, talks, and performances. The Bard College campus is beautiful throughout the year, and CCS Bard students often make a two-minute walk to enjoy views of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains from Blithewood Mansion and its breathtaking terraced gardens. Another campus highlight is Olafur Eliasson’s permanent installation, The parliament of reality, next to the Frank Gehry designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. Most graduate students choose to live off-campus in the nearby villages of Red Hook, Tivoli, and Rhinebeck, each with their own distinctive character.